My name is Rhonda and I do not write fiction. (Sorry Heather, I just couldn’t resist that opening line!) Unlike Heather, and my other good friend that I’m about to introduce, I really cannot spin a good fantasy tale. I can’t put words together to tell a story, and I really cannot use words to fully explain what is going on in my head. (that might be a sign that the world just doesn’t need to know what’s going on in there!) I stand in complete awe of people who can create entire new worlds, characters, plot lines and novels that are so real in their imaginations that they become real for readers. It’s fascinating to me that within this fan community I have run into more published authors than I did the entire time I was in college. The creative “gene” runs very, very thick in this extended family of ours, and I’m proud to be able to support the brilliant creative geniuses amongst us.
If you’re a Duranie that enjoys a good book and you haven’t checked out Bring Me Back by Karen Booth yet; first of all I have to wonder why you’re taking the time to read this blog when you could be diving into THAT – but secondly I need to ask if you’ve been living under a rock? Do yourself a favor: grab the book. Sit down and read it in one sitting. It is the fantasy of all fantasies, whether you’re a Duran fan or a fan of any other musician out there. But after you’re finished with that book – and I know you won’t be completely sated, because no Duranie worth her salt is EVER completely sated – you should pick up THE SEQUEL. (and if that’s not enough, there’s even a prequel named Claire’s Diary that you should absolutely read – you might even recognize yourself in there, I know I did!)
Yes, you read that right. One book about a rock star is never enough, so why not read two? My good friend Karen Booth brings Christopher Penman and Claire Abby together again for Back Forever, and readers are in for a great treat as they tuck into this novel. Bring Me Back answers the question of what might happen if a once-upon-a-time teen fan met the rock star of her dreams twenty years later; Back Forever answers the question of what might happen next.
So it is with great pleasure that I welcome Karen Booth back to the blog today, where I plan to pummel her with questions about writing, life, and even being a fan. If that weren’t enough, I even had the nerve to ask if I could interview Christopher Penman (cue squeeing from the Penman fans out there) and Claire Abby in a blog I will be posting tomorrow because let’s face it: it’s the closest I’m going to get to interviewing an international rock star. (No offense Dom…but this IS Christopher Penman I’m writing about here.)
There are really few people on the planet that I value the opinion of more than Karen. She’s smart, she gets the whole fan-thing (likely because she’s been on both sides: in a previous life – aka before she became a fiction writer, she worked in the music industry!), and she doesn’t judge me for writing a blog about being a fan of a rock band…and I still blush when I read her romantica novellas. So we’re a good pair. I like to think of Karen as the person I could be if I were at all brave, and to me, writing a sequel to Bring Me Back is pretty darn brave. Knowing myself, I’d be thrilled to finish ONE book, much less dare to write another – and yet there Karen goes, writing a sequel.
“More than anything, I wanted to find out what would happen to Christopher and Claire. Believe it or not, an author doesn’t always automatically know these things. Once Bring Me Back started to reach readers and they responded with questions of what happens next, I knew I had to write one. ”
I think this must be what is meant when it is said that the best writers allow the story the room to breathe on it’s own. The characters have a life of their own, and they become real. So how do you end that relationship then? Is it tough to say goodbye and know you’ve finished that story?
“This is a tough one! It’s really tempting to give in, especially when people want more, but the truth is that I don’t have a clear vision of what’s next for them. That doesn’t mean I never will, only that I don’t see it right now. As far as missing them goes, I miss them terribly. Some aspects of finishing this book felt like a goodbye, which was heartbreaking. The connection I have with Chris and Claire is very real. They are not characters to me, they’re real people, which might sound crazy, but it’s true.”
Having never written fiction, I don’t have any idea what it is like to know when a story is really and truly finished. I’ve read Harry Potter and I still find myself wondering what could possibly come next. I suppose the real test is knowing whether or not there really is actually a story to tell. It would seem to me, even as a reader, there has to be a sense of closure or else it will never feel finished…which leads me to ask, is there anything that you would change now that it’s all said and done and published, or do you feel that you have to just put it down, walk away and move on?
“A lot of writers would say that no book is ever truly finished and I definitely put myself in that category. I could revise until I’m blue in the face, but you have to find a way to let go. For me, it comes when I can read it beginning to end and experience a full range of emotions and most importantly, have a smile on my face when I read “The End”. There might be individual words or sentences I would change, but nothing about the meat of the story.”
As a devoted reader of Bring Me Back, when I first heard that you were writing a sequel, I nearly frothed at the mouth in wonder as to what direction the story would take. I think that many fans, regardless of whether it is a musician like John Taylor or an actor like Benedict Cumberbatch, want that complete fairy tale. We all want that “Happily Ever After”, riding off into the sunset with a guitar (or a bass) playing…and never a cross-moment following. The trouble of course is that real life doesn’t work that way. “Happily Ever After” is mixed in with a whole lot of well, less-than-fun times…and let’s be honest, if it was all roses and champagne without a little friction, the tale would get boring very, very fast, no matter how much I’d love to say otherwise. So I wondered how you would continue Chris and Claire’s story. What gave you the most challenge?
“Writing a sequel was so much harder than I thought it would be. The biggest challenge was deciding how to include Christopher’s point-of-view. You don’t get that in the first book and I knew that I wanted to spend some time digging around in that mind of his. I tried writing ‘Back Forever’ in third-person, which is the universally accepted way to handle two points-of-view, but it felt off because it was so out of step with the first book. I ultimately went with a two-character first-person point-of-view, which is a little unusual. So far, everyone’s embraced it quite well. “
I know that when I read the book, I was delightfully surprised by just how normal their story really did read. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t an element of fairy-tale fantasy, because in my opinion that’s what makes a good love story, but there was plenty of “real life” going on.
“I still feel like the new book explores the same concept as the first—how do you take a fairytale and make it real? Despite the very real-life, non-glamorous situations facing Christopher and Claire in this book, they’re still living a fairytale. They’ve both waited a lifetime to find each other, their work lives are far more exciting than for most people. The reader is still immersed in a fantasy at times—it’s just wedged into reality. “
Blogging is definitely not the same as writing a book. Over time, I’ve gotten away from feeling as though the blog is my shared private journal (which is both good and bad), but I continue to learn and take lessons from both the process of my writing as well as the comments we’ve received over the years. On a personal note, that has been the singularly most unexpected and rewarding side-path on this journey for me. I’m wondering if you’ve found the same – a lesson learned – from writing the sequel?
“It’s funny—I feel like I’m just now seeing the gift that the sequel is. It was really difficult to write. It didn’t spill out of me like the first book did, but the reaction to it has been so rewarding. I questioned myself so much with this story, which I can now see was a good thing. Sometimes you have to tear yourself apart to get to the essence of what you hope to achieve. I suppose that’s the lesson I took from this book. ”
That is a perfect lesson to take away, and one that I won’t forget. I feel very much the same with this blog as of late, so thank you for putting it into words. I don’t think it is too much of a secret that I’ve gone through a continual catharsis as I’ve blogged, and lately I’ve taken a huge step back away from this blog altogether. I needed to gain perspective, and I’m not ashamed of that. Every day I put a little bit of myself on display here for the world at large to pick apart, and it’s no secret that I have trouble with the constant criticism. I have a tough time letting it roll off my back. I wonder how you handle bad reviews as an author…does it ever get easier?
“Every author gets poor reviews! One person on Amazon gave Bring Me Back two stars and titled the review, “No depth”. Just stab me in the heart, why don’t you? I wanted to write this person and explain that I spent months at my desk crying my eyes out when I wrote the book, that she wasn’t looking very hard if she couldn’t see the emotion. Then I took a deep breath and remembered one great piece of advice a friend gave me—it’s just someone’s opinion. There is no way to satisfy everyone. So, I handle poor reviews by reading them and promptly doing everything I can to forget them. “
I probably should bookmark, print, and cross stitch that last sentence and hang it on my wall for future reference. Duranies are a tough crowd. They are hard to please, slow to forgive unless you’re a band member, and extremely critical of one another…but they’re the most creative bunch I’ve ever crossed paths with. Nearly every single published author I know personally is a self-pronounced Duranie at heart and they follow the band as closely as I do. I know fans who have gone from doing fanzines and/or trading posters with friends back in the 80’s to huge careers in the magazine, publishing and PR world. It is stunning to see so many creative fans amongst us. How did we all gather in the same place?!?
“There’s no question that Duran attracts a wide variety of talented, creative, vibrant people as fans. No dullards like Duran Duran! (Yes, I know, the 1950s called and they want their insult back.) I think it’s the whole art school approach the band began with—a sense of collective creativity, something I think is still at the core of what they do. It attracts people who approach life with an open mind. Those people are always the most creative because they see beauty and possibilities all around them. ”
So that brings me to my last question for you, Karen. Do you have any advice for the non-published out there?
“It would go the same no matter where your creative interests lie—keep creating, explore crazy ideas, don’t be afraid to do things that make you really nervous. The art is well outside your comfort zone, not in it, and focusing on what you create is the most important part. You can stumble through the rest of it with sheer perseverance.”
I just want to thank Karen for being such a great supporter of this blog and of our vision for Durandemonium. As much as she thinks we’re helping her out, she continually returns the favor. Thank you.
And to the rest of you, grab your copy of Back Forever and get reading!!
Want links to buy Karen’s books? See below!
Other books by Karen Booth as well as a free downloadable copy of Claire’s Diary can be found at Karen’s website: www.karenbooth.net